Why Collect ?

I am much less involved than I used to be in the politics and funding of museum acquisitions, but I was nonetheless pleased to hear David Cannadine launch his Art Fund report Why Collect ? which documents the massive reduction in active collecting, particularly in regional museums during the past decade of austerity as a result of under-funding.   What became clear is that nearly all museums, including the nationals, now tend to engage in a small number of high-profile, sometimes politically motivated acquisitions by major contemporary artists, far less so in a consistent and intellectually coherent way across a broad field of collecting.   This may be the new reality, but Cannadine is right to draw attention to it and – to an extent – lament it.

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6 thoughts on “Why Collect ?

  1. But David Cannadine’s Report, “Why Collect?”, is right to identify the damage that the cut in Government spending since 2007 ( more than 100 million pounds) is having, especially on regional / local authority museums. He is right to stress the need for urgent action. Without the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, museum acquisitions would be in a dire state.

  2. edward chaney says:

    It seems to me he lost the opportunity this morning on the Today programme to highlight the effect of the cuts on access, not just to supposed minorities but to all of us. The Southampton City Art Gallery has one of the best collections of 20th-century British art in the world (the campaign you helped us with prevented the council flogging off stuff to pay for a Titanic museum) but now closes at 3pm (sic) during the week and is entirely closed on Sundays…

  3. I’m extremely sad to hear about the present situation of the Southampton City Art Gallery.

    It has one of the very finest Regional Collections, of remarkable breadth and quality : Old Masters, thanks to Kenneth Clark who was its first Adviser (Simone Martini, Fra Angelico, Giovanni Bellini), Paul Bril, van Ruisdael, Salvator Rosa; Richard Wilson, two surprisingly quiet van Dycks; Monet, Bonnard, Vuillard; good 20th century ( Ben Nicholson, William Gear, J.D. Fergusson, John Piper, Graham Sutherland, Euan Uglow, William Scott, Antony Gormley, Howard Hodgkin, Rachel Whiteread ).

    All that and excellent Ceramics. Few Regional galleries can equal it. As you say, we saw off the Council’s last attempt to flog it off. We must resist this latest threat.

  4. I am aware of another reason for the reduction in Acquisitions in the Regional Galleries and that is the sad lack of conviction among many staff that non digital art i.e. “Paintings and Sculpture” is worth the trouble of ownership. Politically and Administratively it is much less difficult to receive nothing new at all!
    There is a fund of which i am a Trustee who’s function is to purchase works of Art for the people of Lincoln and has a decent endowment so to do. This “Acquisition Policy” or hopeless lack thereof has now forced us to go ‘straight to the People’, by using our funds to commission a fairly major piece of ‘Public Art’. It’s going to be great but does nothing to assist the Regional Gallery or the more considered study of Art in the traditional setting of a Gallery.

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